Losing It for McRib, and 9 Other Cult Food Tragedies

The recent decision by McDonald’s to reintroduce its ribless McRib sandwich for a limited time only has inspired equal parts platitudes and despair. For every McRib locator website, there’s a nutritionist wringing her hands over the sandwich’s 70 ingredients, the vast majority of which aren’t found in nature. Truly dedicated members of the McRib cult, of course, aren’t going to let a little azodicarbonamide (a flour-bleaching agent also found in gym mats and shoe soles) get in the way of a good time. Although devil-may-care devotion is common to most fans of junk food, actual cult followings aren’t as common as you might think. Here are nine other roll-in-the-gutter delicacies that inspire otherwise rational adults to lose their minds.

1. MEXICAN COCA-COLA

Sweetened with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, Mexican Coke is beloved by fans who think it's far more palatable than the American stuff. It has no fewer than eight Facebook fan pages, including Gringos Who Love Mexican Coke, a retail store database, and the power to incite controversy. Just ask David Chang, who earlier this year provoked (blogger) outrage by slapping a $5 price tag on the glass bottles sold at one of his Momofukus.

2. CADBURY CREME EGG

Detractors of the Cadbury Creme Egg—and there are many—charge that it’s too sweet, too sticky, and too trashy, even by the relaxed standards of Easter chocolate. And then there’s that mucoid, yellow-and-white fondant filling. Egg aficionados know all of this and love it anyway, and devote the majority of the year awaiting its return each spring—or finding ways to import it from the UK.

3. POPEYES BISCUITS

Never mind the discreet charms of the fried chicken, it’s the buttermilk biscuits that have inspired both devotion and untold numbers of copycat recipes. Most often replicated using Bisquick, sour cream, and club soda or Sprite, they have even seduced noted gourmands: “Praise these biscuits, they are yum,” wrote French Laundry alum and Peels pastry chef Shuna Lydon after succumbing to their light, fluffy charms.

4. IN-N-OUT BURGER

A longtime staple of both California cuisine and East Coast longing, the In-N-Out burger is less food than fetish object. The opening of one location in Scottsdale, Arizona, inspired four-hour lines, while “news” of a New York store incited a brief frenzy before it was revealed as a (cruel) April Fools’ joke. The burger and its advertisements are simple and minimal, the better to enhance this cult object's lavish appeal.

5. EGGO WAFFLES

Invented in the 1930s and acquired by Kellogg’s in the 1970s, the Eggo waffle is one of food science’s greatest triumphs over American dopamine receptors. Given its reign in the frozen breakfast-food market (and popularity with soccer moms and career stoners alike), it’s a bit of an understatement to say that Eggo has a cult following; at this point, it’s more of an organized religion. Perhaps the most salient reminder of the Eggo’s power came in 2009, when the media all but wet itself over a supposed Eggo “shortage.”

6. WHATABURGER

Capable of inspiring both shitty movies and pretty good cartoons, Whataburger has been serving big-ass burgers on five-inch buns since 1950, when it first opened in Corpus Christi, Texas. Distinguished by their orange-and-white roofs, the chain’s 700 locations are revered as places to hang out and do considerable caloric damage. Their vintage nickel coffee mugs, incidentally, do brisk business on eBay.

7. PEEPS

Tied with the Cadbury Creme Egg as the Easter candy most likely to inspire tribal warfare, marshmallow Peeps occupy a special place in the hearts and guts of sugar freaks and visual artists alike. Though most commonly identified as garishly colored chicks and bunnies, the Peeps menagerie has grown to include everything from snowmen to jack-o-lanterns to, most bizarrely, lip balm. Fittingly, their armies are indestructible. According to science, Peeps are insoluble in acetone, water, diluted sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide.

8. CHICK-FIL-A

Between its official company mission to “glorify God” and its COO’s tendency to mark the opening of new locations with prayer, Chick-Fil-A is associated with a certain degree of religious fervor. Its fans treat the chain as one built solely for the worship of breaded chicken served on squishy white buns, or “Jesus chicken,” as it’s called in more secular parlance.

9. WHITE CASTLE ORIGINAL SLIDER

Simply put, we present Exhibit A.

Image source: Flickr member theimpulsivebuy under Creative Commons
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